in News | 19 SEP 18

Elon Musk to Fly Japanese Billionaire Collector and Eight Artists to the Moon

Plans for the first lunar tourists for SpaceX’s 2023 mission include a crew of fashion tycoon Yusaku Maezawa’s favourite artists

in News | 19 SEP 18

Elon Musk and Yusaku Maezawa, 2018. Courtesy: SpaceX

Japanese billionaire, fashion mogul and art collector Yusaku Maezawa has been announced as the first lunar tourist aboard SpaceX’s mission to the Moon, slated for 2023 at the earliest. Maezawa has said that he plans to bring a crew of ‘six to eight’ of his favourite artists along for the ride.

Maezawa and his fellow travellers will be the first to the Moon since 1972’s US Apollo mission. The mission will use a Big Falcon Rocket, which still requires at least five years of development before it is ready for human flight, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said.

‘Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the Moon’, Maezawa told reporters at SpaceX’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California. ‘This is my lifelong dream,’ he said. The amount of money Maezawa paid for the trip was not revealed, beyond the acknowledgement that he had laid down a sizeable deposit.

Maezawa announced that he wanted to bring along several artists he loved: ‘They will be asked to create something after they return to Earth. These masterpieces will inspire the dreamer within all of us.’ Musk said that the mission would be ‘free for the artists’.

If the expedition goes ahead, it will be a landmark moment in the history of space travel – of the 24 people who have previously flown to the moon, all have been white, male Americans. But SpaceX also has a record of failing to keep to its announced deadlines. It previously pledged to launch a private moon trip in 2018, which never materialized.

Maezawa heads up Japan’s largest online fashion retailer Zozo, making him the country’s 18th richest person with a USD$3 billion fortune, according to Forbes data. He is a noted art collector, purchasing a Jean-Michel Basquiat work last year for USD$110.5 million.

Maezawa has called his lunar expedition #dearMoon, billing it as ‘an awe-inspiring, global, universal art project’. The #dearMoon website suggests painters, film directors and novelists might be included (for now, it appears art critics need not apply). ‘If Pablo Picasso had been able to see the moon up-close, what kind of paintings would he have drawn?’, Maezawa writes on his website, describing himself as a ‘curator’.

The announcement of the lunar mission comes at a difficult time for Musk who has made headlines over summer for his controversial behaviour, including posting confrontational tweets. He accused British diver Vernon Unsworth, responsible for resuing children from a Thailand cave, of being a ‘child rapist’. Unsworth has now filed a defamation lawsuit seeking USD$74,000 in damages. Musk recently was filmed smoking marijuana on a live-streamed podcast show with the US comedian Joe Rogan.

Don’t miss Cody Delistraty writing in frieze about the artists who have dreamed of creating work in outer space, including Trevor Paglen’s plan to launch a giant reflective sculpture into orbit: a chance for space to be reclaimed ‘from its clinical, militaristic, and increasingly commercialized perspective and back into the realm of grander meaning.’